By Steven R. Maher
On April 28, 2012, a small band of party faithful pulled off a tremendous upset, defeating Mitt Romney backers to elect 17 delegates to the Republican national convention in August. Routed were the most prominent names the Grand Old Party had to offer. The defeated included the last two Republican Gubernatorial nominees, Charles D. Baker and former Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey; the two highest elected GOP officials at the state level, state Senate Minority Leader Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr and House minority leader Bradford Jones; and such local GOP luminaries as Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelides, State Representative Paul Frost, State Representative Matt Beaton, and State Representative Kim Ferguson.
The Romney loyalists ran as the “Official Romney Slate”. The insurgents were Ron Paul supporters running as “The Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate”. The challengers were a throwback to the era of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who achieved balanced budgets and showed a marked distaste for putting American troops in harm’s way. They wanted their GOP, the party of Lincoln and Reagan, back from the warmongers who had hijacked it. They were, as one told the Worcester Telegram, “the Republican wing of the Republican party.”
“Many of the people supporting us went for Obama in the last election,” commented the group’s “lead organizer” Bradford P. Wyatt. “They heard the message of liberty of Dr. Ron Paul. They came to embrace it and got active.”
And then, in a shabby, dirty trick worthy of a Billy Bulger at his worst, Romney loyalists, in a closed door meeting, thwarted the democratic process and refused to validate the 17 delegates. In doing so, they demonstrated an attitude conservatives impute to Democratic ultra-liberals: a disregard for the rank and file’s intelligence, that the citizenry were too stupid to make their own decisions.
“The Republican party has proven itself to be thoroughly corrupt,” posted Joe Smolski on the Liberty website maintained by Wyatt’s group. “Dirty tricks at state caucuses have been reported from all over the country.
How can a party led by cheats and crooks expect rank and file loyalty? Why should anyone vote for the candidates they want?”
Ron Paul came to national attention in 2004 as an anti-war candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination. Paul argued that Islamic extremists attacked the United States on 9/11 because of U.S. Middle East policies, not the free nature of American society. Paul’s occasional inarticulateness in debates, while expressing this viewpoint and opposition to the Iraq war, made Paul a favorite rhetorical target of Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph P. Giuliani.
Paul advocated balancing the budget by dismantling U.S. military bases around the world and bringing the troops home, not bailing out American banks, and returning to the gold standard.
Paul’s positions are part of the Republican tradition. Abraham Lincoln gained national repute as an opponent of the war with Mexico. Lincoln filed with Congress the “spot resolution”, demanding that President James K. Polk identify the exact location (the “spot”) where Mexicans spilled blood on American soil, as Polk claimed when he asked Congress to declare war against Mexico. Ronald Reagan often talked about the need to downsize the federal government.
In 2012 Paul ran again for the Presidency. “The big story coming out of New Hampshire is Mitt Romney. The bigger story is Ron Paul,” wrote neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post after the January 2012 primary. “[H]e is unlike any of the other candidates. They’re out to win. He [Paul] admits he doesn’t see himself in the Oval Office. They’re one-time self-contained enterprises aiming for the White House. Paul is out there to build a movement.”
“We had a lot of young people in the campaign,” said Wyatt. “They were more than happy to get this [federal] debt off their shoulders.”
In the March 5, 2012 Massachusetts primary 370,425 Republicans voted. Romney received 266,313 votes, or roughly 72% of the total vote. Paul came in third behind Rick Santorum with 35,219 votes, or slightly under 10%. The Massachusetts Republican electorate undeniably wanted Romney for President.
However, there were two small details to be worked out:
Republicans would caucus on April 28, 2012 to pick 27 delegates from nine Congressional Districts to vote for Romney at the Republican convention. Then the Allocation Committee would validate these delegates to serve at the convention.
In preparation for the caucuses, Wyatt in February 2012 began building a computer database, which proved crucial, using Microsoft 2010 access software. Wyatt studied database design in college.
Computer database set up is a three-part process. First one designates fields, such as “LASTNAME” for a person’s last name, with a specific alphanumeric length, such as twenty characters. Second, one designs an entry screen of the fields established in the first step. Third, one enters the data.
“The master table we used had about 50 fields, from first name, home phone, cell phone, do not contact, to comment sections that were left by the person like ‘Would love to help making phone calls’, or ‘registered R [Republican] on 2/14,” said Wyatt. [T]here was a field ‘Caucus attendee’, which was either blank, yes, no, or maybe. This is what we stored as we tried to identify supporters in the weeks before the caucuses. A great example of this database in use was finding anyone who mentioned making phone calls in their comment sections. A quick query, and a couple dozen new potential phone bankers were contacted.”
On February 20, 2012 Wyatt downloaded from the Secretary of State’s website the name of every Massachusetts Republican. Complicating the situation, Massachusetts was redrawing Congressional Districts after the 2010 census, so some caucus attendees had to be directed to new caucus locations.
“[W]e ran some queries to match and update the Secretary of State table (with accurate Congressional District information),” continued Wyatt. “Queries were basically first name, last name, town. As for phone banking, the key was making sure our phone bankers were calling the right people, and giving them the right location of the caucus. (Remember, with redistricting, it was a little confusing). The data was manually entered back into our system. To relate to the Secretary of State database, we could quickly target specific Congressional Districts, or even town walk list for people who didn’t like to make phone calls.”
Wyatt, a real estate investor, donated the use of a room in one of his buildings, equipped with telephone lines, for use as a phone bank. “On a good day we had twenty people manning the phone banks, on a bad day we had three,” said Wyatt. “There were about fifty people total.”
The phone banks pared down the database list to those willing to spend several hours at a caucus supporting delegates that state law required to vote for the primary winner on the first convention ballot. “The way you get votes is to get your voters to the polls on Election Day,” said Wyatt. “You surgically target the voters to get your people to the right place at the right time.”
How much did it cost?
“It didn’t cost anything,” said Wyatt. “It was all volunteer.”
On caucus day 1,200 to 1,300 Republicans materialized to give the “Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate” 17 out of 27 Congressional District delegate seats. Wyatt had taken on and defeated the Republican political establishment with a volunteer force of only fifty activists, many of them college students. In 2012 America, one person can still make a difference.
Wyatt said the Romney faction knew his slate was running an active campaign to capture the convention seats. “What surprised them was the amount of people who showed up to support our slate,” said Wyatt.
“They showed up with more people and won fair and square,” State Representative Paul Frost told the Worcester Telegram.
Wyatt and his supporters were euphoric. In the wake of their surprise and dramatic triumph, they talked of three goals:
• Ron Paul would be allowed to address the Republican convention. Krauthammer compared this scenario to Pat Buchanan’s 1992 address to the Republican convention “that was supposed to be a simple coronation of the moderate George H.W. Bush. No one remembers Bush’s 1992 acceptance speech. Everyone remembers Buchanan’s fiery and disastrous culture-war address.”
• They wanted a plank in the Republican platform requiring a Congressional declaration of war before the United States invades another country. In recent days, Romney has talked of using military force against Iran, without even bothering to get Congressional sanction as the two Bush Presidents did before taking action against Iraq.
• An audit of the Federal Reserve, the quasi-independent agency responsible for U.S. monetary policy. Some conservatives blame the 2008 financial meltdown on the Federal Reserve.
The Boston Globe reported that the April 28, 2012 caucus results were “a scene from a presumptive nominee’s nightmare: His home-state delegation rises to vote at the party’s national convention – expected to push the candidate over the official nominating threshold – and its members abstain, delaying the coronation in an embarrassing act of rebellion. [T]hey [Wyatt’s group] could, in theory, not vote at all and deny Romney the unanimous backing of the state he governed from 2003 to 2007.”
“We like Ron Paul a lot, but Mitt Romney is our nominee,’’ Wyatt told the Globe. “We’re not going to abstain. I’ve had conversations with most of the delegates, and I’d say we’re of the same mind that it would be a horrible thing to show disunity at the convention.’’
Romney reacted to this situation with the same ruthlessness he showed against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum during the primaries.
The delegates had to certified by an “Allocation Committee”. Massachusetts GOP Rule 4.1 says this committee shall consist of the Republican State Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, the National Committeeman and Committeewoman, one representative of each candidate with more than 15% of the primary votes, “and six Regular Members of the State Committee who shall be selected by the Republican State Chair” after the primary. It was a body heavily stacked with Romney loyalists who, unlike Frost, could care less who won fair square.
The Allocation Committee demanded the 17 Liberty slate delegates each submit an affidavit swearing under the pains and penalties “that on the first ballot at the 2012 Republican National Convention, I will affirmatively vote for Mitt Romney, the winner of the 2012 Massachusetts presidential primary.”
In fairness, it should be noted that the Allocation Committee was within its legal rights to require such affidavits, and that the rules establishing the Allocation Committee were adopted on September 21, 2011, a full seven months before the caucuses. Given that their sole legal duty under the affidavit was to vote for Romney on the first ballot, the 17 delegates would have been well advised to swallow their pride, hold their collective noses, sign the affidavits, and vote for Romney on the first ballot.
Instead, after consulting their own lawyers, they submitted different affidavits swearing to abide by the state law requiring them to vote for the primary winner on the first ballot. Their affidavits said nothing about affirmatively voting for Romney. Based on this refusal to sign the required affidavits, all 17 delegates were invalidated. The Romney slate, which lost in the caucuses, was seated.
Legally, it was a brilliant maneuver by the Romney loyalists. But it was the type of shenanigan which has disillusioned so many Americans about the political process. It’s hard not to conclude that the democratic system itself was undermined. Understandably, Wyatt and his supporters were embittered.
“The continued arrogant attitudes and clear manipulation of the rules by members of MassGOP leadership are a perfect example of why almost 90% [of] Massachusetts residents refuse to be a Registered Republican and active in the Massachusetts Republican Party,” said Wyatt on the Liberty slate website. “Most likely, multiple challenges will be filed to the RNC rules committee, as the MassGOP leadership decides to waste its time and resources fighting with loyal, hardworking, grassroots activists rather than defeating Democrats.”
The war goes on.